Private Works

Perhaps at no other time of the year are we as sensitive to mail service as we are at Christmas.  Combine that with USPS rate increases on the horizon, offices being consolidated around the State, and even the recent strike of the Canadian mail carriers, and it is relevant to consider the viability of federal mail service.

I'm obviously a fan of less government, and encouraging private industry jobs, so let me be clear that my concern is not primarily an ideological one.  In fact, for hundreds of years, a federal mail delivery system was a necessity, and it is unlikely that any private entity could have done the job as well or as efficiently as the USPS.

The last time you ordered a package though, who did you expect to deliver it?  UPS?  FedEx?  The Post Office?  If you're like me, either of the first two would be fine, but the post office is both an unusual, and disappointing option.   With the post office, I instantly know that my tracking number will probably never work, the parcel will likely be delivered 1-2 days after the promised delivery date, and the package will be left beside or hanging from my mailbox.  With either UPS or FedEx, I would have had instant tracking access on my phone and computer, the package would arrive either on, or the day before promised, and it would be placed next to my front door under the covered porch. 

By way of example, I use Amazon Prime and Gempler's Shipping Saver.  Both programs allow you to pay an upfront fee for free 2nd day shipping over the next year.  I love both programs, and they work well for the retailers- I always go to Amazon and Gempler's first when looking for something on the web.  Both businesses optimize their shipping such that every package is shipped 2nd day delivery by UPS/FedEx/USPS, based on who is cheapest for that particular package.  The downside?  Every single package either of them has ever shipped me via USPS has arrived at least one day later than promised.  I've not had the same problems with the other two carriers, so I can only assume that it is the carrier, and not the business shipping me the package, who is at fault.

As we embrace a new, faster pace of commerce, shipping will only continue to grow in importance.  Rather than propping up a failing system, I say we overhaul it.  Let private companies bid on mail service.  Let me place a sticker on my mailbox stating designating who is responsible for retrieving its contents and sending it on.  Let's consider if we should even continue to maintain residential mailboxes, or at least make them less mandatory. 

I can appreciate the rich history of federal mail delivery, I can appreciate the jobs (though I've never met a high-schooler who dreamt of a career in postal service), and I can appreciate that change isn't easy, particularly for senior citizens.  However, I feel the exact same way about the milk man.

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